Whatever your opinion of electric motorcycles, there’s no denying that they do draw a crowd. Rock up at any biker meeting on an electric and within seconds you’ll have people checking it out and asking questions.
The Freeride E range looks pretty much like any other small off-road motorcycle: a high, narrow seat and, depending on the model, enduro, trail or supermoto tyres. Look at it a bit more closely and you’ll notice the very slim power plant (you can’t really call it an engine) and of course, no exhaust system. The 300V (max output) removable battery sits under the ‘tank’.
Given that there are no gears on this bike, you approach it much as you would a twist ’n’ go scooter. Sling a leg over the 34.5” (870mm) seat, turn the key, wait for the power indicator lights to run through their startup procedure and hit the ‘Start’ button. Of course, nothing happens except for a slight humming vibration which you can feel if you rest a hand on the bodywork. Now you’re ready to go. Just twist the throttle and the bike takes off.
When I say ‘takes off’, I really mean it. Unlike petrol engines, electric motors deliver all their torque from zero ‘revs’ so acceleration is arm-wrenching. Depending on which power map you are using, the 300V battery delivers between 15-21bhp which may not sound like too much but when you realise that the whole bike, battery included, weighs little more than 105kg, there’s not a lot of mass to get moving. In fact, take out the 25kg battery and you can lift the whole bike off the ground with not a lot of effort!
There are three different power maps. The first is mild, allowing a top speed of around 45mph and offers the best range from the battery. Map 2 is probably best for regular riding as it gives the best compromise of power and range while Map 3 is totally balls-out mental and will drain the battery in ten minutes (if used to the max all the time)! In fact, when Clive took off from some traffic lights at top whack in Map 3, I had to take my VFR750 up to 10,000 rpm in second just to match his acceleration before I started to catch him. We didn’t really test it but I’m convinced that the Freeride would out accelerate a 1000cc sports bike up to 30mph!
Once out on the road, the Freeride is pretty much like any similarly styled petrol-engined bike. The seat is high, the wide handlebars allow for plenty of rider input and apart from the lack of engine noise, well, you’re just riding a bike really. In all power maps, the Freeride will stay with commuter traffic, is nice and stable and changes direction well. Throwing it through the twisties on the road-going tyres is a hoot. Coupled with the masses of acceleration available at a twist of the throttle the Freeride holds its own on the road very well. You’d have to look quite closely as it came past you to realise it’s electric!
Now, I just know you’re all reading this screaming, “What about the range?”
and here we have the consistent weak point of all electric bikes at this moment in their development. We ran the Freeride in Map 2 with a fully charged battery and took it out on a typical commuter ride on 30/40/50mph roads, hitting the speed limit where possible, basically riding it like any petrol powered bike. It took 29.7 miles to drain the battery and after that, you’ll have to push it home, which as it’s so light, isn’t actually much of an effort.
29 miles isn’t a long way but when you take into consideration that something like 80% of ALL motorised journeys are less than five miles, the Freeride would make an ideal short distance commuter bike as well as offering some decent weekend fun too. With the battery needing just 1 ½ hours to fully recharge you can ride in the morning, recharge over lunchtime and be ready for some more fun in the afternoon.
While KTM have delivered an exceptional piece of machinery, it is very pricey at £10,500 and you only get one battery and a charger. A second battery (a must if you’re riding off-road) is a further £2,500 and the charger is a bespoke system, designed especially for KTM.
There’s no denying that battery technology needs to advance a fair bit before electric bikes become more mainstream but the Freeride E series is a big step in the right direction and KTM should be applauded for what they have produced, in spite of the high purchase cost. It’s a good looking bike, well made and an absolute joy to ride.
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Whichever way you look at it, electric bikes ARE coming, and we WILL all be riding them before too long.
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Major thanks to Simon Belton and the team at KTM UK for providing the bike and we look forward to seeing more electrics coming from them in the future.